The Gambia’s total budget for the year 2017 stands at D14.34 billion from D12.99 billion in 2016.

This was disclosed to Gambians on Thursday by outgoing Finance Minister Abdou Kolley while presenting the 2017 national budget to the National Assembly of the country.

The budget was presented three weeks before the present government of President Yahya Jammeh will hand over power to the incoming government of President-elect Adama Barrow after loosing the crucial December 1st Presidential election.

The budget will centrally focus on ensuring micro-economic stability through increased and enhanced private sector participation in economic activities to spur economic prosperity.

Finance Minister Kolley told Parliamentarians that the total revenue and grants in 2017 is estimated at D14.34 billion from D12.99 billion budgeted in 2016, representing a growth of 10.4% and domestic revenue is projected to slightly decline by 1.2% from D8.6 billion in 2016 to D8.5 billion in 2017.

“Similarly, tax revenues are also estimated to decline from D7.93 billion to D7.86 billion, while non-tax revenue would increase marginally from D670 million in 2016 to D674 million in 2017. The project grants are estimated at D5.8 billion compared to D4.4 billion in 2016 representing an increment of 31.8% over the period” he said.

On sector by sector plans for the coming year, the minister said agriculture continues to be the strength of the economy and has managed to recover from the setbacks of late and insufficient rains in 2011 and 2014.

“In so doing, government intends to improve key enablers such as sustainable macroeconomic framework, energy, access to finance, transport and communication, a simplified tax code, land use management, ICT and highly qualified human capital. In addition to this, the government will also enforce fiscal discipline to ensure that the cost of borrowing, particularly for the domestic debt comes to sustainable levels – making entrepreneurship viable for all actors in business spectrum through reduction in policy rate” the minister said.

He said the agriculture sector has witnessed a significant growth both in the number and size of the portfolio of agriculture projects.

“In 2015, the agricultural sector grew by 3.8 percent compared to a contraction of 7.1 percent in 2014. This improved performance is primarily due to a growth of 4.5 percent in crop production from a contraction of 20 percent in 2014,” he said.

In terms of sub-sector growth rate, the minister said livestock and forestry experienced setbacks with growth rate declining to 3.1 and 4.3 percent in 2015 from 4.6 percent respectively.

“As per Gambia Bureau of Statistic revised sectoral growth rate, industry grew by 8.2 percent in 2015 compared to 2.7 percent in 2014. This impressive performance is the result of amelioration of growth in electricity, gas and water supply and construction, which recorded a growth of 9.2 and 24.1 percent in 2015 from 7.4 and 10.6 percent respectively in 2014” Minister Kolley noted.

The Finance minister also disclosed that preparatory works are progressing steadily for the construction of the world class international conference centre for the hosting of the OIC summit in The Gambia in 2018. He said already a site has been identified and both the design and the final implementation agreement have been reviewed and the actual construction is expected to commence in early 2017.

On education, the minister said a significant achievement has been registered in enrollment at all levels. He said enrollment at the basic education; that is from grade 1 to 9, has increased from 383, 679 in 2015 to 399, 567 in 2016 representing an increase in Gross Enrollment Ratio from 90.9 percent to 92.3 percent.

“Gross enrollment ratio at senior secondary level also rose from 41.6 percent in 2015 to 44.0 percent in 2016 as a result of the increase registered in school enrollment from 51, 225 to 56, 001,” he concluded.

By Alhagie Jobe